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Australia’s thirst for change

22 years of drinks data and analysis reveals the nation’s changing tastes

New peer-reviewed research on 22 years of consumer purchasing data has revealed a long-term shift in Australians’ drinks choices with a significant increase in the consumption of no-sugar drinks.

An Australian research first, the study published in Nutrients, found a significant 30 per cent decrease in per capita sugar contribution from non-alcoholic water-based beverages over the 22-year period from 1997 to 2018, which is equivalent to a reduction in 32 teaspoons or 127 grams of sugar per person, per year.

‘It’s clear from the research that the drinks fridge today, when compared to 1997, is very different with Australians now purchasing many more no- and low-sugar beverages in a range of categories and flavours which is testament to the industry’s dynamic innovation agenda,’ said Mr Geoff Parker, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Beverages Council.

In 1997, Australians consumed 83 litres of sugar-sweetened drinks per person compared to 61 litres per person per year in 2018. In contrast, 88 litres of no- and low- sugar choices, such as plain and sparkling water and sugar-free soft drink, were consumed per capita in 2018.

‘Evidence of a major change in what we’re drinking can also be found in bottled and packaged water which now outsells sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drinks, and 59 per cent of water-based drinks purchased are low- or no sugar, compared to just 36 per cent in 1997’ added Mr Parker.

‘Volume sales of still and sparkling unflavoured water are particularly interesting as they have increased by 4.5 times, from 12 litres per person, per year in 1997 to 54 litres per person, per year in 2018. This shows the drinks industry is driving change in consumption that is aligned with public health goals by offering additional healthier options, more of the time,’ said Mr Parker.

’64 per cent of drinks in the fridge in 1997 were sugar-sweetened drinks with the remaining 36 per cent made up by non-sugar options. Today, 59 per cent of drinks are non-sugar drinks and 41 per cent are sugar-sweetened.

‘Anyone visiting the local service station, supermarket or convenience store will notice that the incredible choice of drinks available has never been greater, including most of their favourite brands which are available in a low-sugar or no-sugar option,’ said Mr Parker.

The research demonstrates an important shift in consumer behaviour which is in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the industry’s efforts to encourage healthier lifestyles, including the Sugar Reduction Pledge to reduce sugar across the industry’s portfolio by 20 per cent 2025.

‘The causes of obesity are complex and multi-factorial. This latest research shows the drinks industry is playing its role in providing readily available healthier choices to all Australians,’ concluded Mr Parker.

Australian Beverages Council

The Australian Beverages Council is the peak body representing the collective interests of the non-alcoholic beverages industry.

We strive to advance the industry as a whole, as well as successfully represent the range of beverages produced by our members. These include carbonated regular and diet soft drinks, energy drinks, sports and isotonic drinks, bottled and packaged waters, fruit juice and fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, ready-to-drink coffees, flavoured milk and flavoured plant milk. The unified voice of the Australian Beverages Council offers our members a presence beyond individual representation in order to promote fairness in the standards, regulations, and policies concerning non-alcoholic beverages. The Australian Beverages Council introduced a dedicated juice division, Juice Australia (formerly Fruit Juice Australia), in 2009 and a dedicated water division, the Australasian Bottled Water Institute
(ABWI), in 2011. Through these, our organisation, and its relevance and impact continue to grow.